I’ll try and keep this page up to date as much as possible but things are always likely to change a little as and when I find new bits and pieces that I like, or indeed if my guitar collection grows yet again.
Last Update: 15/08/2022
PRS Custom 22 Special Semi-Hollow
This guitar has quickly become a firm favourite, and there’s a whole load of reasons why. For one, the weight. I have a few semi-hollow guitars and they’re so comfortable to play for many hours, which is handy when you’re regularly playing two or even three shows in a day.
Secondly, the versatility of this guitar cannot be overstated. The variety of sounds available without making any modifications to it has definitely been a major draw. Particularly with Phat Gandalf, the range of material we play requires quite a few different sounds so being able to get everything I need from this one guitar is really great so I’m not chopping and changing as the set twists and turns.
Another thing I’ve noticed about this guitar, not common with semi-hollow or trem guitars, is how stable it is to changes in temperature and humidity. I’ll often be playing an outdoor gig in the new-found burning British sunshine, and then heading straight to an indoor gig with air-con and the guitar stays remarkably stable tuning-wise even with these regular shifts.
PRS Brent Mason
I bought this guitar on a whim and actually had a mad dash across counties to pick it up, only to immediately turn around and drive right back passed where I’d started that morning to arrive with no time to spare to play a last minute outdoor gig. I decided against playing it at that show, mostly because I hadn’t had a chance to put any straplocks on it (usually my uncrossable line to gigging a guitar). Since then I’ve been drawn to it when looking for one of my “strat-type” guitars. It’s warmer than a lot of my options in that camp and it blends well with my other main guitars so I don’t have to change a load of amp settings when I switch guitars. I really love some of the little details about it too, like the gold infilled bird inlays. It’s a very versatile sounding guitar but it doesn’t get a “thick” sounding as the Special or a Custom so it’s often used for more of the Bluesy stuff I play rather than a “one guitar does all” instrument like the Special. I’d really love to get my hands on the maple fretboard version of this guitar at some point too.
This is a recent acquisition. I actually purchased it from a guitar hero of mine, Slim from The Hamsters. It is an absolute honour to own a guitar he played (in fact I bought three from him! Such a lovely guy too). When I started out playing I used to go and see The Hamsters a lot, they definitely had a profound impact on my musical journey. This McCarty is an absolute rock machine. A real thick sound and still that incredibly comfortable PRS feel about it, it’s a fantastic guitar. I’m surprised it took me this long to actually play a McCarty in earnest, and now I’m really glad I bought a couple from him haha.
Tom Anderson Drop Top
I picked this up very recently from a friend of a friend. It’s a really comfortable and crazy easy-to-play guitar and my first real deep dive into the Tom Anderson world. I have a couple of Suhrs and it’s definitely in that camp. I find all of these modern “super strat” guitar brands to have a very treble-rich sound and that’s definitely something that I want to tame a bit. I think it’s likely the combination of maple necks and stainless steel frets that plays the greatest part in that and on the whole I think I probably prefer nickel frets but there’s no doubt that this guitar has some sounds in it that are very distinct from the PRS’s I tend to play and that really adds another dimension when needed.
Kemper Profiler Powered Rack
Digital amps aren’t usually a popular choice for the Blues Rock enthusiast, and many people are often surprised by my choice. For me the Kemper is an incredibly practical tool. I have many traditional amps, and I love them, but when you play a range of music that jumps from pillar to post in terms of sounds, it can be hard to do all of that from one “base” sound, that being your valve amp of choice. The Kemper shines in that regard, and the way I use it probably makes it more “amp-like” than most people expect to achieve. I have a bank of 5 sounds that function as the root of most of my shows. They range from a “Fender” style edge-of-breakup sound, through a pushed Two-Rock profile and then on to a profile of a Victory V50 which does a lot of the heavy lifting in a show. Then there’s a couple of much more ambient sounds which I use throughout shows for adding a bit more colour to the sound. All of these presets have a variety of extra toggles to add more to them, and then I’ve coupled that with a pedalboard with several other things going on (more below). It really is hard to move away from the Kemper. I’ve tried the Helix and the Quad Cortex and, whilst I’m a fan of both, I find the Kemper much more comparable to an Amp in how you actually control it. It’s much easier to manipulate quickly on stage if you want to change something about a sound, I don’t have to crawl around and scroll through menus for many of the parameters, they’re just there on a dial right where they would be on a valve amp.
Despite using a Kemper, and running that direct into a PA with IRs, I also like to use a cab on stage. It retains that sensation of an angry valve amp behind you, but allows you to control just how much volume it’s kicking out very easily. I also think that for smaller shows the blend of the cab (Celestion V30) and the IRs (overwhelmingly Creambacks) works really well. I have other cabs as well, including some Victory 212 vertical cabs which I really like using for their height, but for some reason they just don’t sound as good as the 112. I have speculated that it’s because the speakers in the 212s are 8ohm and the 112 is 16ohm, but I can’t figure out what effect this would have on the Kemper itself as they’re both still loading it as 16ohm in the end.